News: Silicon Valley Big Shots Courted by Ford & GM

Silicon Valley Big Shots Courted by Ford & GM

The driverless competition is heating up as Detroit automakers attempt to woo tech talent away from some of Silicon Valley's biggest players.

Bloomberg reports that there here are currently 5,000 job openings in software and electronics product development in the Motor City at present. This is about a third of all the unfilled positions for Detroit big boys, including Fiat Chrysler Automobile, Ford, and General Motors (GM).

Recruiting new talent is proving to be a bit of a bother for the top dogs there because that talent is often being absorbed by Alphabet's Waymo, Apple, and Uber in sunny Cali. Not ideal, but Detroit companies are now attempting to entice potential staffers away from the competition and back to the place where the automotive industry began.

Ford and GM want the best in the biz to work on their driverless technology (Ford at the Mobile World Conference 2017). Image via Ford

So, is this wooing actually yielding any results? According to a principal at Deloitte Consulting Ben Dollar, it's not going to be a walk — or drive — in the park by any means. Dollar, who gives automakers advice on recruiting for a living, told Bloomberg:

"This is a massive challenge. The scarcity of talent in this area is so acute it's become a CEO issue, not just an HR issue.

Detroit automakers have a plan of action to combat the proverbial tumbleweeds blowing through the industry. They're zeroing in on the lifestyle needs of the millennial — a mouthy creature we're all familiar with — who suffers from a myriad of First World Problems.

But how do you entice a person who has passive-aggressive tantrums about the shortage of kale in the office canteen? You simply conduct a $1 billion renovation of a 60-year-old Tech Center, like GM are doing (that's sure to reel in the young 'uns!). Likewise, Ford is of the Pokemon mindset that you gotta' catch 'em all and upped their game accordingly.

Their Dearborn campus is also receiving a 2017 makeover. Hilariously, CEO Mark Fields and Co. are trying to attract millennial workers by adding — wait for it! — a green space.

Despite Ford's fading fortunes, they've managed to rustle up the funds to convert the wing of a shopping mall so their digital engineers can 'collaborate.' And let's not forget their work-in-PJs option ... I mean, really?

All kidding aside, a major plus for engineering graduates looking for work is the fact that Detroit accommodations are significantly cheaper than tech hub Silicon Valley. A home costs around $1.13 million in Santa Clara County for a single family unit, versus $39,100 in Detroit, according to the California Association of Realtors and Zillow respectively.

But the crux of the recruitment issue in Ford's case is how they are managing to flash the cash for millennials in light of their falling stocks? Automotive News report that their shares have fallen by 35 percent since Fields took over on July 1, 2014. There was even additional time added on to Ford's annual shareholder's meeting to question their CEO about his methods.

But the businessman is adamant that Ford's two-pronged approach of robot taxis by 2021 as well as a ride-sharing service will continue its 114-year legacy. No problem, right?

Judging by the continued success of Silicon Valley's main driverless players, and GM's $2 billion annual earnings advantage over Ford, courtesy of its lucrative SUV segment, I'm not too sure.

If this millennial recruitment drive is successful, could a modernized workforce improve Detroit's automotive industry? The grass — or 'green space,' in this instance — is always greener, and a pajama-clad workforce could feasibly eliminate the formidable California competition. Especially when the choice is making a lot of money in a less expensive, if slightly less glamourous city, versus living out of a van. For now, the Golden State is winning the automated race, with Waymo, Uber, and Apple in the lead. But can it last?

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Cover image by Ford.

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